Monday, November 12, 2012





"This may be difficult."  


Paintings by Jay Edge.
Hosted by The Upstairs Gallery at Caprice Bistro, 
November 15th 2012 through January 2013. 
 Opening will be held on Weds. November 15th, 6pm - 9pm.   

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

a trail run in october.

Juking through the trail, the trees & roots of blue clay, its not fast but i'm working, running, midmorning october, orange leaves under long blue shadows, jarred horizons push and pull, merge and blur like a rothko, hips shift in quick tag of earth and eyes root to the trail, the mud-spine switching back against ankles & knees, lumbar and shoulders, and i'm aiming for a rapid cadence that smooths the work, shortens the stride, less jar to the kicks, a smooth roll of thrust/lunge, thrust/lunge, and i'm keeping the shoulders rolled back, neck is long and throat is open, breath steadies to fill the chest, the mind is even and quiet and tuned in.
thin layers of breath move with heat from chest into muscle, exhale steam, a fugue of moves, symphonic.

it's my creative act to articulate a trail well, to immerse myself in that work, to grind down the whole being over a distance, to emerge from a passage of earth exhausted, quiet, fulfilled, its an act of artful expression.  this is where i find my core, in raw nature, this is my honest primal place... when running, the world's noise can straight fuck off, fall away, dead october leaves fueling a fire... when i run, i can burn the world from the inside out, my own private anarchy, my own graces and brutalities.
catharsis and meditation, the falling of leaves, the nature that shares an infinite spectrum of moods, the rothko-thin layers of thanatost and libido, glazed into a whole form of a man, an illusion possibly, a body, succumbing to nothingness and everything, moving through it until the bones fall away from the soul.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Run in the Uwharrie Range.

...in pursuit of some moving ecstasy, in liberation of mind and spirit, as a private act of rebellion & anarchy, there is a run, something primitive in the act of running a trail. it was time to move through some of god's good land on the momentum of my angst, on the power of legs, on the remaining keenness of mind and near the land of my birth, the familiar rolling pastorale of my formative years, is a range of mountains that carry my youngest memories.  they carry the cathartic and carefree remembrance of running the wooded acres behind my grandparents house, a boychild moving in new earth. it feels good to be back home, in the piedmont of nc, good to be in the ancient land of the uwharrie.

i.  the medicine: a few hours of solitary running in a gnarly stretch of woods where i can feel self-reliance, where i can move into intuition, in the movement of the soul, where i can ascend and descend mountains that carry the history of their birth and formation and the archaeology of use, where unknown generations of Indians ran on leather soles chasing animals and children and women and each other, not knowing the game was timed.  to fall into that trail, wholly immersed, you mark the blaze and fucking run until the breath is lost, the body is wrung out with salt crystallizing on the bellies of muscle and the vision blurs and the landscape fades to a deeper space, a world beneath the mind, at a bodyless vortex, mud of body and mud of earth, river of mountain, river of body, cuts of blood and bone and the primitive stoneface steep against october mountain, clashes of body-wood through narrow chute of limb and branch, endless spiderweb entanglement (like a beekeepers hat on head), the pale green mosses of rockface thrust, the diagonal cuts of limestone and the irregular face of granite, low pyramids of white quartz like some ephemeral timekeeper, the sienna and ochre carpet of fallen leaves and the secret surface beneath, a rare splash of yellow-orange on a branch, wheatgrasses brushing leg in low meadows, the dull light beneath a still thick canopy of hardwood leaves, the undulating horizon from which streaks of sun pour down to splash trail bright, a strobe effect of light and shadow, slope of space, the ever bending horizon the everbending body the jut of leg and the pistonhammer feet ache on stone protusion and the gut churns at the prospect of being waterless and the mind just burns on, an endless light fueled by a Divine spark that exists here, in this space, on this trail, in this mountain, and is, for this moment, Yours. an absolute moment of Existence, an absolution.

(ranger warned me that "the snakes are out right now, moving, and the rattlesnakes are moving, seen a few in the past two weeks, rain brings 'em out, and they are ill-tempered, yeah, ill tempered right now...be careful")
... and to be IN the acoustics of the motherearth, to be present and alive in the land... had driven 3 hours to arrive here, had driven anxious and energized, music blaring the whole way, and here was the quiet of ancient mountain woods, containing me in my traverse, shirtless with thin-soled shoes, two bottles and a sweat-blotched map that was (literally) dissolving with each paused orientation, a thunderstorm moving in from the northwest, black and bleak, but the day so far was sunny and clean-aired though the trail was puddled with overnight rain and the rocks and downed trees were as slippery as polished cement beneath a pickup truck oilpan and that ideal weather ended two and half hours in when the sky shot down raindrops, the size of golf balls, a cool but muscled/fisted rain, and i found a service road to runrunrun back through a hunting camp and up/down until being deposited back at the parking lot.
aww man & oh boy! soul was revved and language and cherokee and twombly and the rip of land beneath the kick of foot restored the ache to be alive, the will to be a part of this lifething, the mad courage to go forward and to do.  proud to be here, alive, and able to offer something, if only a body and the language of legwork.

ii.  and thirty minutes up the road came a clearing of clouds and morrow mountain state park and i decided on a quick loop across fall mountain trail where fire had devoured part of the landscape and left strange charred forms, previously tree trunks, now a surreal display of natural sculpture, and somewhere two miles in i lost the trail and descended a rocky scramble to the shore of Pee Dee River and, realizing my errant direction, backtracked, pawed up the scree past what looked like a dismembered still and back onto the red mud/blackened soil surface and craggly oaks and the flat rocks like stacked iron pans reaching off of the shallow summit and ended that run with a sink-bath before heading to salisbury for a thai meal.  all in all, a 17 mile day in the uwharries, three hours of good wholesome running...

iii.  and thats that.  and what is that?  an exjunkie kicking miles in ancient wilderness earth, shirtless and proud and burning the body open... the power of movement, the power of body: a grateful thrust of his entirety.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

labor day run in remnants of isaac.

... gotta get behind the mule again, shoulder plow into hard earth, bend to the wind and start the work of miles and pigment.... early morning run, grayblack day like soot dusting dawn, the torso arches into moderate pace, the heart leads, a pulse feeling fires of late summer, coals of burning lungs, fatigue in the launch of leg... an arrhythmic event of muscle versus mass... when, now, like a promise broken or fulfilled, storm collapses onto land, the vast flat land, bending on asphalt, empty windows of resting homes become shallow and pale... rain applaudes itself as a bleak black horizon pushes down on earth... shoes absorb puddles to swell heavy, eyes sting, lips collect the rain, shoulders and back cool and the body opens, kicking fluid into inhale, feeling length in stride, a body in push, and the back arches like a bow, an arrow of effort jamming into the blind courage of distance... regardless of mindcloud, the questions, despite clouds of exertion rolling through mind and muscle, riding blood, the histories of this moment building like a cacophony in mind.... the continuum of habit is a history to be admired.... bending back tall as pushing heart into rain, churning legs, churning wind and rain, fury of it all, something staged or hollywood with lightening and thunder, naked chest pounded by tiny fists of rain, the body's gravity, the breathlessness, the soul heavy in solitude of the rain run, the ridicule of such an act, raw arrogance and fuck it all-ism, the angst of the legs. . . . fury of it all, solitude of it all, kicking like a mule in a storm-rattled stable. . . . and then the paint, the paint is dry and the runner is wet, irony... the vigor of yearning, the proof of form, the time-starched hopes of charcoal and burnt sienna and red oxide, ochre and cerulean, the burning of a figure silhouetted by rain and angst and cloud, raging against apathy, charred lung and brilliant whiteheat light... a clay sag in the rain. . . . the work is the love, the work is the meaning, the work is the nexus.  the work is the bones in this heavy sack of clay doubt, the work is the pursuit... paint, ecstasy, illumination, equanimity... work is anything that brings you love.  work is the proof, is the gift, is the expression of god.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Kunga Yoga, Kunga Running. (still in edit, but whatever.)

As cosmic collaboration would have it, I found myself registered for a 220hr yoga teacher training program three days before the commencement of a three week immersion program.  New to the art and practice of yoga, my connection to the power, the medicine & synergy, the joyful work of disciplined movement, all was aligned sufficiently to alter life-rhythms (my own and many others) and embark upon the journey.  Welcome to Kunga Yoga Teacher training at Shell Island Resort in Wrightsville Beach, NC.

Kunga Yoga is a yogic belief-system central to Wilmington Yoga Center, the hosting studio of the ytt school.  At the philosophical core of Kunga Yoga is the belief that Yoga is a service, is an act and offering of compassion, and that practice is an opportunity to reconcile. Kunga yoga believes that everyone is a yogi, that yoga is accessible to every body.  In serving our bodies in asana and pranyama, we build a personal strength that can translate towards a communal power.
Kunga yoga brings a monthly theme to its classes, and that theme is introduced into each Kunga class, often connecting the category and flow of postures.
Kunga yoga classes donate a percentage of proceeds to a charity, annually chosen. The young girls of the Home for Hope in India are 2012's recipients, and there is a trip organized at the end of the year.


i.
Rather than write anecdotes and vignettes describing the three weeks of ten hour days of practice, posture work, reading, studying, refueling and resting (rich days my friends!), I persuade you to check out a class or a workshop (www.wilmingtonyogacenter.com for those in the area).  Yoga practice is a transformative, expansive, magical thing, and every yoga experience can be a gift to yourself and others. 

ii.
Yogic philosophy is a direct complement to kicking out distances.  Burying the mind in the solitude of miles makes yoga feel more elegant, more nuanced, more subtle.  Braiding in both, in yoga as in running, is the idea of space, openness, breath, heat, and, most importantly, a strong communion with the earth beneath you as well as the clay that composes you.   Clay and breath and light, light that emits various levels of heat.

iii.

I came to yoga from a spectrum of injuries.  Yoga was a gentle, a healing or nurturing meditation; a preventative, in-the-meantime deal. Soccer stretches.  I quickly learned that yoga can be equally physical, massively challenging to strength and mind and endurance. Forgotten areas of my body struggled with basic movement & patterns of movement. Tensions poured through muscle thicker than blood. Slowly, a new body, a waking body, merges into breath through posture, distills mind into focus, a calm, engaging meditation towards inner-stillness,.  It is a process, a gradual process.  A journey.

Yoga contains running and running contains yoga.

Moments in my trail running have a sacred lucidity.  Likewise, I have fallen deep into my body and inner-bodies during shavasana, exploredvast mad spaces during cycles of surya namaskar B... felt fires in core and legs while holding warrior 3... yoga and running are acts that open the body to new aptitudes, open the heart to new experiences, nurturing a healthier, happier person.  Both stabilize the body and mind.  Each is an action rooted in gratitude.

iv.
I think all creative actions can be an ascetic.  Drop labels and the cultural models, let fads fall away, minimize the noise of a thing, transcend to your own expression of an act and search out the ascetic root.  Find a mindful connection to the act.  Sculpture, masonry, cooking, writing koans, cleaning, story telling, sketching a rock, skipping a rock, reading, meditation .... in every creative act is an ascetic potential.  More to this later...

v.
Yoga, the physical elements (only two of the eight branches of Yoga), is a meditation that moves through postures and patterns of breath.   Asana and pranyama are powerful practices, but I would extend Yoga to include running, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, dancing, eating, having sex: anything can move towards a yoga-based practice.   Anyone can find some form of yogic practice and celebrate that immediate place. Start here and now by noting the here and now.  Breathe into the three spaces of your torso's cavity, filling the belly, expanding the ribs, lifting the heart, and then pouring that breath out mindfully from the belly. . . . yoga dirgha breath.  A mindful nodding of the head, a roll of the lower spine,  scorpion pose, walking to the mailbox, any mindful movement can capture the spirit of yoga.  Everyone is a yogi, and it does not require a mat to find your yoga.  to move consciously, to feel the weight of one's body on the support of an earth, to yoke the love and heat and strength of a challenging posture, to remember the steadiness of breath and the awareness of body and mind, and then to project that as an energy into our relationships and community, it is an offering. movement as prayer. an exalted, basic Act.

We do not learn yoga so much as we excavate the yogi within us.

**********************************************************************

Interestingly, noted Yogini Sharon Gannon argues that asana does not mean posture, but translates as "seat."  Meaning a stable connection to the earth, to the processes of the earth, to the dynamics of a moment, to being still and conscious, reaching from within with compassion.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The history of surface. Approaching summer.


Got some New Seeds shaking around the seedbag. Ink on rice paper. Language charged fresh, muscle charged flesh. Sandalwood and ts eliot. Shostokovich, holy lands, projective verse & newspaper excerpts, transfer drawings and vast hee-hawings. . . monotypes, titles forgotten, brokenspine books, libraries empty in the rain, l.a. rose gardens, ecstasy in the vein in north decatur & the cold fear of speed versus the lax heat of dope, coastal miles and the whispering sand of lowtide runs, the push of body through heat and fatigue and doubt. . . . sexual tension or creative tension, an energy source, like the clangor of rachmoninoff, schoenberg, the terse verse of buk, a fullmoon thing, ebb and flow and oxbow.  

i am a freerange mind: Uncaptured, mostly. A trek covering some 38 years of wondering, wandering. Jesus. Je suis. Sex and creativity and running are all just a hunter's instinct. A freudian exertion.

Imagination and sovereignty. Let collapse the constructed mind and quit clasping the umbilical culture that binds. Burn into dance. Pour into intuitive existence and be enraptured by what waits. Amaze yourself. You ARE a phenomenon. Imagine, cultivate, ruminate, be sovereign. Desire something beyond yourself.

Dance your spinning world around, rumi, gibran, st. paul. . . whoever gases the grand ideal.

ii.

Palettes sit newly sealed in white, previous layers of colour covered in strange geography. (I get lost in the narrative of topography, the history of surface.) The dried puddles of once-pigment, ridges of brushes, weight of touch and drag, the valleys where mixtures were diluted, exhausted. Now white. Titanium white. The total of all light and its pigments. A historied topography absolved of specific struggles. Clean. Start new. Spin out of your dwelling, your rut, your denizen, your mindnumbness.

iii.

A coastal run of 14 miles, an unrushed&freelyworking form kicking sand through a earmix heavy on modest mouse and marley. Dehydrated launches of legs lose power, cramp, pull into stomach like a band weakening around a wrap of papers, like a scroll.  The muscle and mind and desire unravel to a lost momentum, the settling of blood in feet and swelling and discomfort and the final fallaway of mind from the work at hand. Meditation becomes something ugly and debased; the act works against the focus. No longer a positive, but a mind full of suffering, the escape of which was the reason for running in the first place. End of a cycle, pause of a process, like knowing that a drawing is complete. Hit the garmin and breathe.

iv.

Form that is not simple, but elegant and ancient. Ephemeral. But above all, Elegant. Miles' sketches of Spain, Stravinsky's rites of Spring, drums and the slap of feet. Ink on rice paper. Sole on dirt. The nimble seriousness of this life is best expressed not in contours, form, layers of language, but in the body. The calligraphy of the erotic, the powerful bending of the yogi's body, the armature of mind in synch with body in synch with trail that runs like rain down a mountain. The cadmium red-orange burn of quads. The dance of the original hunt. The gasp that is a hymn, an Om, a settling of chaos into rhythm. Illumination by way of the physical:  sometimes you must push the body to quieten the mind.  

Let the madness drive.

Monday, May 14, 2012

stretching canvas, stretching body, stretching mind. a big pile-up of words.


Massanutten running & a mashup of a May catch-up, mid-april, mountain running, a grand exodus of the familiar, injury and a heel defeated and a run de-footed.   a mention of the yoga gradually stretching into the routine to knead body of jangled knots.

i.
Massanutten is a mountain resort that lays outside Harrisonburg Va, butting up against skyline drive and george washington national park. The mountain looks like a muscular fin, a massive, scalloped jut of limestone and evergreen, anchoring april sky against that lush bucolic landscape of farm and town, quiltwork, dairy stacks, silos.

This area of the Virginia blue ridge is wrapped with miles of trail to include Kaylor's knob, the massanutten trail, the AT, and the many color-blazed trails that Massanutten Resort and the IMBA carve and maintain. Daily trail-play and one road 5k (with my wife on the occasion of the Boston Marathon!) brought a total of 50 miles in four days of running, with three days of running lost to travel. The heat was frying sweat on rocks, lifting finally a storm out of the afternoon scree wednesday, but the heat was detoxifying, energizing. despite my lack of a runner's world physique, it was refreshing to run shirtless in splits and minimal shoes in self-reliant solitude.  it was indian and pure and playful.  minimal intrusion and maximum output.  a judgement free zone of zoning out into a run.

its a minimalist act, a good run. . . . a gel, some food, two handhelds (strong Heed and cold h20), an occasional hoop-whoop chant to avoid startling a bear around a blind turn, and the burning of foot and leg and core and the fade-out of jabber and mind-clutter and false fears.  another body or no other body, music or silence, sky or ocean or mountain or earth, a run can be as simple and raw as one wants. . . . some good old-fashioned trail running across the rockpiled appalachians, where overlooks let vision hang like a hawk in the wind.

The thing, for me, in running a mountain with shallow lungs, with coastal lungs, with ex-smoker's lungs, is the difficulty of climbing. While it is a joyful and rewarding thing, I slow on the uphills, powerhiking, running only what I can. I try not to judge my run, my body, my efforts, or my abilities.  When I do run, it is a pace that  invigorates, focuses, challenges, while maintaining a pleasure in the run itself. To lose the run to the abstract credentials of a runner is the work of thieves. To see a mountain push out of a farm's fields while running a dozen miles is a gorgeous thing, and to work your way back up switchbacks and limestone vertebrae teething out of the spine of a mountain and to peer across vast american space with a turkey taking flight or a deer bounding across splashing leaf to disappear in wooded, dusted siennas. . . . to burn thighs and sole and breath-dried mouth down a mountain, it carries the lithe language of nature back into mind with the fragrances of  animal, evergreen, exertion, sex, spirit, sun-hot rock.  To run a mountain is a constant amazement, an ecstasy of movement coalescing through space.

Now is much resting, stretching, and massaging out the soles of my feet with a roller from where the limestone outcroppings of the mountain trail beat the shit out of them.  My body works into some yoga recently and the body appreciates, my breath, my serenity, appreciates it.  I can feel the openness of my chest, the lengthening of muscle and the engagement of core.  I run with a whole sense of connectivity, feeling the relationship of momentum in my right leg to my left shoulder and elbow and wrist.  I feel the drop of chest across knee during tired moments and I feel the flatness of chest against effort-driven gasp.  I feel a solid body, even with the mileage sinking beneath my hopes.  But ultimately, the numbers are just another layer of abstract credential, a false signifier of joy in an act.

ii.

Currently I feel good, healthy, optimistic.  No races, no expectations, just a mindfulness of the current Being I occupy.  A faith in a good orderly direction.  There is even a series of paintings starting in journals and mind-canvases.  There is language forming towards something, there is interest in various things, a passion underlying efforts, and there is a generous love that forms beneath my thoughts in quiet moments.  I am trying to be a good person.  Miles and pigments and language act as armatures of my faith.

iii.

To move towards and with something-- to flow with the movement of an energy and commit, that is the freeing key. That is the lesson and the point and the reward. Raw faith. The full-life confidence to be mindfully present, to be engaged, to be kind with a generous love. The kindness to be generous, the love to be kind.

Some days move towards a gradual requital, a denial or a refusal; it is a gradual and unconscious shift. These days are tiring, daunting, cumbersome. To breathe into the act, cycle the work as ocean and muscle and heat. to burn a thing anew. to keep at it and to stay in it, that is the work of the day.  be a movement that gasps into the earth, burning with something fully of a moment and yet ancient, ephemeral, a hymn or a howl. be the fire and blaze.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Gator Trail 40k (of 50k) 2012.


 
Flash back one year ago to the 2011 Gator Trail 50k. Held on the trails of Lake Waccamaw State Park, Grant Egley's event was my first ultra and, in terms of mileage, it also contained my first marathon. The 31 miles passed as a personal triumph and cornerstone in my running life, imparting a new philosophy regarding my body, my mind, my abilities. The people I met were as supportive as they were diverse, and they were enjoying their lives.  Amazed and proud, emboldened and sovereign, I felt I could gain speed and confidence in distance running. I was hooked. Fast forward through a MTC shirt run, Grandfather Mountain Marathon, Weymouth Woods 100k, Wrightsville Beach Marathon, 1800 miles and 370 days.

2012 Gator Trail unfurled a new set of issues but the biggest was my 3h30pm shift. A vicious list of reservations had already populated the seating chart and there was no getting out of the shift. So, Friday's shift clocked out around midnight and the 5h30am alarm sounded Saturday with the dripping of coffee and a boiling h20 pot for oatmeal, some gear loaded up and then the family and we were off. Slightly Stoopid and a sunrise and a reunion with some familiar faces, the line up and briefing, and Grant's easy countdown to begin the big kicks into the sand and roots and lake mists of this coastal salt lake.

This was a jaunt and taunt run with a grand sense of reunion attached.  Mark Long, Bill Wiemer, Donald Drees, Marie-Ange and Stephanie Carter were there and I had something invested in each of their successes.  My run was more of a social thing with some trail mileage sandwiched in.  I had not planned on running the full 50km and, this being a looped event, I had easy options to drop in increments of 10k. A DNF bothered me little, rather the DNF-factor alchemized towards a rare opportunity for a “disposable” race. My decision and strategy was to charge ahead until the chain slipped the gears- just see what my legs held. The result was a great deal of play and excitement and an actual lead on the first lap. I've never been in first before, so to try a front-runner position was a helluva lot of fun, even if a total flop. Alternating pours of rain cooled the legs and torso and kept me feeling like a wild wet wolf on a hunt, invigorated. But I also knew my limits were hanging after the 18 mile- 20 mile mark.  And when I fell into third while urinating behind a tree, I felt part of my wolf-fight yawn.

Around mile five, a female caught up to run in synch with a bit of conversation, saying that this was her first 50k with one prior marathon. Her name was Leaanne and she turned on some mad afterburners about mile seven and became a Trysports-jerseyed flash in the woods. The girl was killing it, running the sandy access roads like it was the loop at Wrightsville beach, running the technical sections like she was navigating a low tide beach. She ran with a grace in the work that few accomplish, and she powered through for an overall first place after leading for nearly a marathon's distance. Marie-Ange was nearing with her artful form, and I was reminded of the strength of the local female running community. (New Hanover county boasts many talented female runners, but I don't know if the Gator Trail has ever been bested by a female. . . Leanne put up a great set of miles to get to that line.)

From there it was a good progression of miles with alternating rain in the flat light of an overcast morning. The surface of the trail offered passages of churned black mud and faster sandy stanzas (packed and manageable from the rain), staccato roots biting into stride with an increasing aggression as the miles accumulated in the legs. Breathing went ragged in the warming of the day and a consequential humidity, and my pace began struggling towards 8m30sec on the third lap. My IT bands and quads were getting slowly microwaved and, with one more loop to finish but an eight hour shift ahead, I formally dropped at mile 23.99 and 3h 16mins. I thanked Grant for putting on another great race, and he thanked me for coming out and participating. This is a man who created the Mississippi 50 mile run several decades ago, and who remains so humble to us stumbling newbies, so his graciousness is a diamond kindess. His wife was awesome and warm, offering one of her famous sandwiches. I shoved my soggy self into the car to start the process from trail running shoes to Danskos. 

Sushi and coffee and a shower and the time clock and I am polishing silverware and taking drink orders on a 9-top. Work went well and finished well, excluding a setting fatigue and a voracious appetite for every plate of food I served.  Especially the grouper filets and pommes frites and chocolate mousse. 

Many lessons came across my body, including:
a.) the need to pick up some S-caps for the Southern running season (thanks Brett!).
b.) Extend the long runs-- if your body is only accustomed to 18 mile runs, then 31 miles holds too much unknown, too much unencountered muscle damage. Your long runs in training constitute the high-water mark for stamina in racing-- Adrenalin only forgives so much.
c.) I need to learn to run through the pain. I continue to enpower the difficult parts over the passages where I run well, and the difficult miles cost all benefits of earlier exertions.
Finally and d.) I've learned from the Weymouth Woods and from the Quintiles Marathon that the training is as much about the recovery as it is about the actual race. To prepare the body for the work and the damage, and to teach the body how to heal itself, is as important as learning the footwork to take roots on a trail.And I felt good after the race, a minimal discomfort.

I think these are universal obstacles, and tomorrow, I will get an easy ten miler on some trails to start kneading the legclay back to a workable shape.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wrightsville Beach Marathon 2012.

The marathon distance is the ultimate racing distance.  Her 26.2 miles carry poetry, legacy, myth, denial, redemption. And while it is a race-able distance, a road marathon remains a deceptive and difficult thing. Its a destructive road.  The body, the ego, the mind, they become greedy and volatile against the abstract guts of a clock. 26.2 miles donates much time to lament and regret and doubt, to believe, much time to run hard the body and to relent. Here is the thrill of effort, the strength of the collective, the intervals of adrenalin-fueled kicking. There is a loneliness that swallows whole the harrier into the deepest void of his being. . .  the promise of a mt.olympus wall, a community of sound support and guidance across the best and worst miles of your day.   It is an internal and external event.

The Community.

The race director, the army of volunteers, the crowds of supporters, the mass assembly of good folks pointing the runners in the right directions and handing out water and gatorade and gels and smiling and applauding and commending us by name (the bibs actually had your first name printed beneath the number- a very cool detail!!), the student band playing by the golf courses of Landfall, the encouraging residents of Landfall who clapped and saluted in their front yards (a curious head-cocked dog by their side), the throngs of folks lining Military Cutoff and camping behind the finish lines, the massage therapists and the sponsors willing to place their bets on the success of this event. . . . it just gives a participant a real feeling of pride to be at the core of that love. The Wrightsville Beach Marathon was a very special event filled with special people.  And there were runners, of which I was one.

The Race.

This was my second marathon, my first being the Grandfather Mountain marathon of July 2011. I entered the Quintiles marathon 2012 with certain time goals, a fair training background, and a plan. I nurtured a newbie's fear and I carried that burden as a self-enclosed and solipsistic feeling. I had doubts and hopes. Saturday night by 10pm, I wrapped up my last table and my mind was stoic and meditating the run, and I breathed myself to sleep at home beneath a novel by 11pm.
March 18th was a sunday of 5am alarms, dark coffee, a gear bag and a 6h40am starting line. A 3am thunderstorm had moshed through overnight and settled as puddles in the street, and it was now lifting into the air as fog. I was moving through the fogged darkness with wu-tang and doubts.
Arriving, the ribbon of runners already wrapped the blocks of Mayfair alongside the endless trolleys and buses serving to transport the participants to the Wrightsville beach park. The morning remained totally dark and the breeze was wet with chill. Runners sprinted the lawns and boarded the trolleys. The ride was a grumbling parade of engines and chatter. Banter crescendoed on the bus and entire running resumes were listed to no one in particular-- whole catalogs of running experience were thrown up like a loose leaf manuscript to fall across the ears of riders. It is a nervous fellowship before many races.
Arriving at the start area, the WB Park had settled into the pre-race routine of port-a-john lines and high-knee sprints and endless stretches and nerve settling. Track club jerseys amassed, pace groups shook hands, racers looked determined, and the warning bell sounded. A countdown ticked off to 6h40am and a pick up truck with a mounted camera led the opening files of runners along the loop by the Atlantic ocean, over the ICW on the metal-grate bridge and, by mile 3, I had lost sight of the lead runners for the remainder of the day.

The first few miles of my race were swift and strong. No less than fifty dogs and their humans stood and waved and barked and wished us well. The fog was thick and felt clammy on the skin. The puddles in the street were splashed and kicked, and I nailed early and full-footed a few puddles. I missed my first attempt at a water cup, around mile 4, knocking the entire cup of water against the neighboring volunteer. It was not a moment that generated optimism.

From there the race was a lot of straight burns down Military Cutoff by dancing red dragons and a dozen different tents and fans with various signs. In the crowd cheering was the race director, Tom Clifford, as well as Olympic trials marathoner Christa Iammarino. (Its a pretty cool thing to have a top-listed Ironman competitor/runner and an elite marathoner rooting for you.) Cutting into Landfall, one follows the major roads through the wonderful landscapes and architecture that define this destination neighborhood. Golf courses read like impressionist paintings in the lingering mist, and I asked myself on a few occasions why I had not chosen golf over long-distance running. But I had some 18 miles to go. A crowd of excited laughter offered free high fives, and the runners took them up on it. (The guy in front of my tried to slap-sting one happy spectators hand and I got a kick out of that.) Then it was a half-marathon down and one half-marathon ahead and I had pounded for 1h31min straight. I felt good for a minute. Gel, water, gatorade. Rocky's theme song. A song by Journey. Motley Crue. High School Band performing from a gazebo at the corner. Back down Military Cutoff where I see someone I know: “Jay? Jay!!” and I felt good for a moment. I shopped here Thursday morning.  I wonder if they have that new book on the Civil War.  Back into Landfall, around a bend following the well-marked route. Another Ironman pointing the way. “Hello Jim,” I said to the familiar face and I felt good for a minute. Miles collected like seaweed around my ankles and I hit mile 21 at 2h32 minutes. The wall settled on my quads and IT bands and shoulders and any hope of a comfortable, fast finish was shot.  I was running through an imaginary ocean. From here it was the work of trudging and the final wheezing howl of hope as the miles clicked off. With agony and lethargia, the mile-marker signs would show up around a corner. The out-and-back that wrapped up the final 10k was plodding and broken up into walk-run-jogs distances. (Note to self-- breaking a marathon up into two ten milers and one 10k is not a manageable distance.) Faye missiled by.  I felt good.  Tyler.  Ange.  It was nice to see someone familiar.  Abruptly, I got a cramp in my right hamstring that nearly brought me to the ground, and it persisted for two minutes before relenting. One woman grabbed her face and recoiled when she saw me limp into the cramp. It passed, she passed, the race continued. I saw a friend from life drawing, a fellow artist. She yelled my name is fond surprise.  I felt good for a minute.

The Finish.

The distance kept unfolding true to the prescribed mileage of a marathon. So the race director was not going to let us waste our time on a short marathon! I lolled myself about that. . . . “Go Jay!” they cheered and the Garmin hit 26.2 with another two blocks of folks waiting.  I had missed my goal by 7 minutes at that point but I was still sub 3h20m. The final stretch was an embarrassment because I was the only runner for the whole distance, my misery fully illustrated by my lagging gait and my slack jaw. But then I saw my wife smiling, my son yelling, and the white noise of my pain filled up with joy and pause and I stopped to give a high five to Kyote. He didn't respond, and I felt myself going, going, lurching forward, so I launched back into the final kicks where cheerleaders surrounded me with pom-poms and greetings. I was ecstatic to be done, and my fuel tank was absolutely bankrupt. My medal was given and I was proud to put it on.

Something of a Postscript, an Epilogue: A collection of effects.
 
Things got tricky here. Exertion and goals and adrenalin and whatever got me and following a Gatorade recovery drink, I headed back over to my wife and proceeded to bawl, to absolutely manically bawl into her neck. I had failed my BQ goal by 8 minutes, finishing in 3h18m06secs, and I was ashamed and angry and forlorn. I waddled over to wipe off my stench, to get a fresh shirt, and catch a moment away from the crowd. The crying kept gurgling up, and then subsided as we re-entered the expo area. I got a massage on my legs (courtesy miller-motte tech school), and roamed around for a cup of coffee. The race was done. A quart of orange juice, a plate full of gorgonzola chicken, and an advil was the prescription du jour.

Revisiting this, I learned something. My time fails the BQ of 3h10mins, but I am above A-Standard qualifying time for the JFK 50m by 22 minutes!!! And this is a wish list race, so the accomplishment is revitalizing. I will return to the Quintiles if the cosmos allows, and I will look at this running year with great amazement as I became a sub 3h20min marathoner. And please excuse my effusive tone here, I am not boasting or self-celebrating. Rather, these are acts that shock me, that shake me to my core with gratitude for the years of new life that I have outside of the bars. To have overcome the negatives of my history and to alchemize into something worthy of my body running well for 26.2 miles is nothing short of a miracle.

A huge thanks to all who brought this race together. A prayer for the race director's family who experienced a tragic miracle two days prior to the race. A prayer for the fallen runner (who has improved). A prayer for the staffer who was struck by a drunk driver, suffering a broken ankle and bruised ribs.
Much gratitude to those that support me in my life, and I hope is that I return the love in equal amounts.
.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

march 13 koan-poem.



bradford pears in bloom, bach's fugue for string quartet, the body in movement is a fugue and three miles becomes eight and its almost spring. . . the run, the body, the stride, this muscled gasp of form like a fugue, a layered rhythm of intricate little intelligences, converging where the distance is no distance but a continuum, a hemingway sentence sweeping towards a kerouac paragraph. . . the yawning fire of the chest, the pleasure of movement, the anticipation of spring and fragrance and easy beaches and bright musics. . . . spring is a run, is the joyful howl into a quiet neck of the woods where sleep wolves and where swells the earth, viridian green and wet.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Run for Ray 2012 and a nocturne.



i. 13 miles among friends and family, kyote's third birthday, the woods.  The collective aspects.

Run for Ray Trail Race is an absolute hoot, a grand gallivant of a mud-romp, and it's continued growth is a testament to the fun of running through the woods. Three options of distance, 3m 6m and 13m, brought a total of around 280 folks, with all the familiar faces organizing and maintaining things, keeping a smooth flow in the mass, keeping the cause in mind, keeping the vibe respectful of it's roots of charity. Mo, Mincher, B. Brandon, the Underhill family, the volunteers, all were magnificent- many thanks to those who assisted the race's fourth annual success.

The 5k was fast, the 10k was fast, and the 13 miler kicked super-quick with Clifford, Hatchell, Hustrulid, MA Smith, and many other local talents tearing up the course. I passed much of the run solo, sometimes isolated, but I kept falling back in queue to see runners ahead and behind. It was a great race, and half of a great race is a great course. . . the grand ol' trail.

The trails at Brunswick Nature Park unravel by the sleepy marshes and the black tar of town creek. Into the woods the black and red clays cut, leaning into electric tower swaths of land and striding by waterlilied ponds, cat tails, mountain bike paths. The trails for the 13 miler are mostly narrow single track, interspersed with a few fast shoots of gravel road spineing the park. Some trail sections are older and smooth, deeply grooved into the earth, but most of the trails are new, engineered and labored by SORBA and Coastal Land Trust volunteers. Puddles were frequent and feet were wet. Sections twist and carve into sandhill with switchbacks and serpentine modulations across banks of longleaf pine, hardwood. After two laps on the more familiar singletrack, runners were flagged (or bodyblocked, but that's a different story) into a new section of trail composed mostly of spongy, freshly upturned soil/sand, a few mudslide berms, and a fine drift through new land. This section went on for about 1.5 miles before it cut back into the gravel road to the sidewinder trail to bring the mileage home. The top runners finished in the 1h30m range, and they were all salty smiles and easy postures and kind words as I came through the finish chute. A positive group populates this race and that's why it's my favorite local event.

ii.  the personal.

Run for Ray, the inaugural 2009 shot, was my first trail race.  It was a 10k across blue clay mtb trails, cold and all new and balling with a bit of blood and a lot of endorphins.  I was immediately addicted.  The R4R still serves as an annual benchmark, and I'm proud of my performances and progress as a runner, glad for my continued enjoyment in running the woods. My gratitude is deep to have found trail running to pull my body out of the destructive habits.
2012 has kept my knee runnable and the trail felt solid beneath my strongest efforts. Kyote turned three years old while throwing rocks into mud puddles and running alongside people that choose healthy forms of recreation. Time on trails, time with family, birthday pizza and jokes, then a good shift at work: it all adds up to a good day.
It's what trail running is all about, communion and community.  The burning of body as it passes along earth, invigorated and enthralled, searching a larger concept, a larger sense of boundary, a deeper confidence, an expansion of self and self-image.  Pursuit of a coordination, a synchronicity, an alignment with something higher than oneself.  A kindness that is accomplished by good, healthy work. I'm not preaching, but most trail runs feel like a Sunday morning to me.

Hope to see you out there next year.

iii. rest.

Nocturne on a surly, a dozen miles deep on a february night, thinblade moon slicing clouds in a starless blanket of silver fray, run for ray 13 miler still detoxing outta bones but a mellow sway of a bicycle is the right medicine for right now.  quiet wilmington night under the buzz of street lights and the gravelly roll of tires.

Meanwhile its a stomach stuffed with good foods but a mind stuffed with miscellaneous, with noise and clutter, fragmented idea, lost lyrics of song, family concerns, work stress, body aches. . . the norm. for now, fresh air and the quiet clicking of geared pedals, a rejuvenation, a pause; the simple slow cadence. in pursuit of a decrescendo of the cacophony.  the work to soothe before a few paragraphs of dos passos and sleep.  sometimes you just have to bow out for a moment, collect yourself, exhale the stale light. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

blue clay, a run in winter, nostalgia tinted trails..


i.
something akin to kerouac when running a trail, hardclay slicing through thin pine zips and the leaden arms of old oak, just thinking and kicking by the rainblack muds collecting tiny footprints out of the woods, trailside threshers in small leaf-eruptions, just thinking and kicking, crossing a footbridge, meditating ricepaper layers of poetic continuum, untangling my years on this earth into a ragged narrative, thrusting towards a meaning, discovering and forgetting, a constant rebirth of breath, of falsity and faith, an image whether goya schnabel turner or richter, inhale and exhale broken by a moment's scramble of rootbruise misstep, arch growls and eases forward towards next stride. a brief beat lost and stalled, like a cursor at the end of a paragraph, blinking.

deja vu at the sound of a train - the familiar, a promise in the sweetness of america, a rustle through the woods, quiet (but for depth of breath), listening to that distant train, a corso whistle, a snyder grind of track, a set of solo legs burning winter out of muscle and mind, the wet smells of pine / oak, coltraine birds spilling notes into air, the strangely full february air and the coldest morning yet in winter, 28*F at blue clay and no one else around. . . freedom to recall the coffee-and-burnt-oil tire stores of concord, the kannapolis trains pumping canon mills into the market before the fadeout and blight, the paintings of foscoe bedrooms where grandfather mountain slept, salisbury bridges of the wpa bridge overlooking lugubrious morning trains. . . luxury of memory, the luxury of forgetfulness.  the loss of language is transcendence into body.  

ii.
Thoughts of batting cages with josue, his questions, a pier, a quiet intention perhaps. Then the accident. Years later, the driver of that fatal vehicle is found responsible for the accident. Rasha, contrition. The unbelievable irony of time, sometimes a moment requires years to reconcile. A lifetime, perhaps.

iii.
and tonight, after work, the fog of downtown wilmington smells like something out of a dfw short, a mix of burning diesel and tattoo ink. . . . a strange smell for a surreal foggy night with the cape fear lapping up misty light under a partial moon. A werewolf's desklamp. An undertaker's dull light.  a writer's distorted view of things.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pauses and interludes.


Interludes of winter.

Yesterday, Sunday February 5th, it occurred to me that i'm an artist. It wasn't a pretentious thought but a reclaiming. Like an unclouding of memory, a recognition. I could have easily thought My knee hurts or A coffee would be good or I need a jacket. You get it. . .

When i was young there was wonderment, drawing, writing, music. . . these things meant everything. I knew I wanted to create. I knew I wanted to paint and draw, explore bodies, figures, to use words, expel & reuse things, burn ideas into colour, excorcise, rework materials, refine a tangle of lines. Deconstruct or focus a myth. I wanted to falsify and clarify and deny. Whatever. I wanted to work and distill.

To kink a moment into something new. Alchemy of poverty. Alchemy of being a bit fucked up. The craving for new, invigoration, a mindmosh, break up the clusterfuck of modern consumerism and the mindbend of namebrand identity.  a freeing of the temporary towards something more human and ephemeral.

i am writing now because i do not want to write.  i am running tomorrow morning because i do not want to run.  but to engage the process is to initiate a momentum.

i.

Weymouth woods left an impression. Definitely. Left me with swollen maps of a bloodied hawaii across the arches of my feet, a bruise dark as a tattoo across the top of my right foot. Left me with a voracious appetite. Left me with a dose of runner's knee. It also left a burning desire to commit myself to another long race. Well, maybe more a run than a race, which brings us to semantics time.

Racing blurs too darkly the experience. Brings libido & ego into the mix. Racing implies the outside world and my relationship to it, when, especially in running, i'm just trying to beat the shit out of my own guts, my own legs, my own earth. I race from an emotional point that finds a powerful expression in the physical. Running is a private rage, a push towards something fresh. exhaustion, delirium, inspiration, endorphines. . . . running involves gratitude and transformation.

Transcendence, runner's high, fitness, the lie of endurance, these little mantra-myths pull a false lure when, ultimately, it's just the tenacity of the churn of legs that pushes through mileage and struggle and doubt. It is the same as not drinking, the same as not screwing a random, the same as not painting bad work. The choice to not pollute, to attempt to improve on the existing process, to layer nuance towards art.

A 100k trail race is a postmodern essai that requires no ink, no audience, no documentation.  my ego wants a public acknowledgment of the happening, but the run is completed, the journey ended. from there it just sentiment and nostalgia. Which this is. A confession, a recant, a howl.
chris burden would shit himself.

ii.

Winter brown leaf canoes across a redclay puddle.

3.5 miles of fair (meaning, comfortable) running. Top of right foot remains bruised. Much improvement in left knee. right hip is not cramping or caving. Calves are loose and feet are strong. Abdomen burns, bends too soon. When posture goes, the body follows. Lungs are tight and revolting. the dread of a run after a few days, hits first my respiratory system.
form serves simultaneously as the metaphor and the structure, the meaning and the armature.  mobic twists.  

a dog pounces a ghost in someone's backyard. Winter muffles haydn to a charcoal's drag across cotton duck. Schnittke and rothko is more the order of the day. Patches of melody and clangor. who was that composer i was thinking of earlier?  starts with a b. . . oriental composition. . . . shit. bar. . . bartok. 

iii.

Chorus of a thousand birds. February, groundhog day. A four mile jaunt across the neighborhood.

iv.

Sometimes: stop. Breathe. Feel Soul stir around bones. Air across legs, sun, bird song breaking through anxiety, fragments of memory, reggae beats.  pulse.

v.

language stumped. Syllables, broke In. puddled words. Puddles of stagnant mind.

artifacts of existence, tatters, shreds. . . false sail for a false boat-- a theater-set Life. . . patchwork of dreams and self-imaginings and failed paintings and failed selves and new legs and haunted mountainsides where melancholia settles like some distant mist that drapes spring buds to silent drowsiness.

So for now, i'm just gonna read coogan's history of the ira, google some work by mike kelley.   smear some conte across a toothed page. engage in instinct.  Unapologetic and still.


******************************************************
Mike Kelley died last week. He was someone who taught a generation to move freely within their gifts, even if they exist outside of the societal norms. He beat music to a pulp, laughing and mad and brilliant, and then beat paint and mediums to a new form. And he did so without fail. He defined new american aesthetics. He built something from his emptiness. a genuine punk, a man in full. Rest in Peace Mr. Kelley. 
******************************************************

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Weymouth woods 100k race.





Fourteen loops across 4.5 miles of sandhill trails hacked up by knobby-gnarled pine roots, fast descents dog-legging offa' redmud ascents, water-carved cuts of earth and pine needled miles padding the distance ahead, and the endless need to disregard the screaming quads, the setting sun, the runner that has now lapped you twice, the left knee, the right calve, the lumbar tug, the cold hands, and the massive rush of physicality thrusting you forward. Disregard the ultrarunner concerns with kidney damage, cardiac swelling, hypnotania, and know that ultrarunning deals as much with stamina and endurance as it does pain management. And know you are stronger than pain as you shuffle like a cinderblock mistakenly thrown as a bowling ball. It is only mile 52 and you still have 10.58 miles to go.

I am already excited for the next one.

ii. schwag and logistics.

The rd, Marie Lewis, put a helluva fine shirt (a printed patagonia capilene LS) and a printed sports bag together. She also secured a chip system to record splits and count loops when you were incompetent to do so (which I was for about 80% of the run). Professional quality, top-shelf stuff from a fellow ultrarunner.
Two aid stations divided the 14 loops into halves, as Marie's husband manned the grills and stocked the main aid station, where vegans and carnivores alike had their fill of options. (If you starved during this ultra, its 'cause you cracked your head open on the trail between aid stations and slowly succumbed. . . . no other excuse was valid. The food was downright luxurious-- especially the chicken noodle soup.) The frostbitten aid station in the middle of the trail loop offered rotating options, including peanut butter smores, pizza, and some of the best grits around.  A well-marked course, good schwag, good volunteers, good management, and a full day in the park makes for a great 100k.

iii. The basics, the course, the folks.

77 runners suited up for the ultra. mtc (mangum track club) was a major player, as was rfh (runner from hell). the calender put it on a saturday january 14th, and the starting temperature was a wintery upper 20's. A brief opening, a passecaglia of about 1/3 mile, allowed the runners to position themselves before entering the narrow trail where we would spend our day. The first half of the trail sort of leaned into some 4x4 steps carved into a hill and then slithered down a soft decline for a mile or so before tacking up some pined slopes and cutting into a narrow single-track which hovered above marshland. This area was so still and quiet, a tranquility point. A few foot-bridges kicked you across a gurgling brook and deposited you back at the foot of an incline which shot up towards an abandoned platoon, or a home, before eventually edging back around to skirt the road. 

Coming down into a tunneled area of woods was the sign “3 minute hostel,” and a chunk of my race was dominated by this sign. 
A.) they kept moving the sign. Slightly, but they moved it. 
B.) was it mile 3? was it a 3 minute pause? Was this the midpoint or a slightly advanced position, or neither. both. . . . awwhhh hell.

But this AS group made my run work-- their grits (sans buerre s'il te plait), and the generous portions of hot cocoa spiked with dark coffee kept me in the calories for the last 18 miles. If the loops were a single sine curve, the three minute hostel would be the -1 point from which the curve goes back into positive zone. a point to start over and invigorate.

The second half was the gnarl, continually wrecking me with sharp upshoots stepped by roots and tight turns, weighing against knees, hips, the sides of swelling feet, the arms moving and sculpting balance across the strides. The straighter passages, the few & the cruel, deceived the inner-competitor into accelerations, pushing long kicks through brief lunges of red clay hills, dodging the skree-clogged rivulets and collapses of sand and stone and pine-root steps, and then quad-busting declines that would make Kupricka a heel-striker.

The final bend, which I kept looking for well in advance of its appearance, allowed a view of the weymouth woods park building and museum. It was a morale boost to see that geometric form lift from the tree-line. You then jam up the gnarliest part of the course, a steep ascent of mixed steps and roots, everything being just spread out enough to force leg-lunges to clear necessary distance, or force a tight-gape powerhike.  either way you were getting burned up at the joints.  then came the final hill to a curve that brought you into the home chute and the main body of event.

All of these terrains and their exclusive challenges served to beat a body up, to pulp down a runner's guts, back, neck, legs, ankles, and to render them a jellyful thing lurking as a number on a leader board kept by the aid station. It was enthralling, a perfect combination of challenges.

Again, I can't wait to sign back up.

iv. my experience as a runner doing his first 100k.

I had never run beyond 32 miles.  my long runs during training were 2 to 3 hours, with a higher concentration on back-to-back mileage.  but my legs felt strong enough for the distance, and fast enough to compete on a racing scale.
Nutrition was a concern, but I had heed, gu gels, and a pretty good stomach, as well as some extra padding. As far as pace, I started conservative, and then realized I was running well (within a 1/2 mile), and I really wanted to keep the lead pack in my sights.  I began passing clusters of folks who were watching me with a quiet wisdom, a wise reserve. I wanted to keep a competitive and aggressive pace, for my level of running, and my garmin read 8min- 8min30s miles for the first 25km. I felt strong and determined as I reached my marathon point, though I thought 3h45min was a little extended from my goal time. Reaching 50k, I was around twenty minutes behind my gator trail 50k time, which I thought I would match in my current fitness. Privately, I thought I might better the time actually.  Slight buzzkill.

Middle miles are my weak point: there is little to anticipate but more running. Reviewing your accomplished miles does little to encourage; everything goes grey and melancholy.  Factory miles, shift miles, inattentive and grinding.  Whether a tuesday ten miler or a sunday 18 miler, my psyche is the same. But when my left knee went tweaky about mile 40, I was even more lost. This was when I considered the possibility of a drop.  My good friend Mark Long (and a helluva runner himself-- besting the Boogie twice and killing it across many marathons and ultras) recommended ibuprofen. I was wary, but after forcing out a painful powerhike across the total distance of a loop, I took his advice. Then a fellow runner offered me an S-Cap, repeating, “don't eat the brown acid.” my drowsy, somewhat defeated mind appreciated his humor, even if it took about two miles to do so. the combination of ibuprofen and restored electrolytes (ultra-ball (patent pending)) got everything rebalanced and runnable and off I kicked to clear some good loops out, trying to beat the sundown/moonup, try to reclaim some time.  Strangely, I ran alone much of this middle distance.  I rarely encountered someone, and when I did it was momentary and peripheral.  My quads cemented up around mile 54 and running slacked to a horror-hike, hands on quads on the uphills. My head was throbbing. I had long ago 86'd the ipod, and launched mental diatribes against anything that crossed my mind. Charlie Sheen had nothing on my rage as I kept jogging awkwardly through the woods to mark one more notch out. Night fell (enter another totally new experience:  nighttime trail running), and my headlamp was surreal and fantastic and I jogged/ran 60% of my final two laps in good spirit with an appreciation of the life-experience. I tumbled once, and that was in the last 100 yards of the race. A combination of nighttime running, fat roots on a steepish ascent, tired legs, and an effort to rush to the finish resulted in a fine allfours type roll. . . . no harm. My finish was 11h34 mins, a seventh place finish and a first for mangum track club, which earned me two fine pieces of pottery by a local potter and ultrarunner, Irene Russell. The time was enough to be proud of while also leaving a great gap for improvement. For a premiere 100k, I am pleased.


Ultimately the race was superb, while the actual work of the thing was neither good nor bad, just grueling in the middle miles. For sure, running 100 kilometers on trailed earth is something of a bitch. Meanwhile my body is still reconnecting the fissures and tears and thoughts and reabsorbing the swelling. My feet are no longer alligatorish, but I still have some bruising across the top of my feet from my shoe laces. My lungs are less fatigued, and my abdomen seems to be relaxing again. my shoulders feel like i got a beatdown and my energy-level is still off, but I can honestly say I have ran 62.58 miles. And regarding weymouth woods 100k, I can honeslty say i will do it again.

 

Bravo to the volunteers, to the organizers, to the cooks, to the runners, to the support crews and families, to the dogs, and to the park rangers who made this all work. Marie Lewis was extremely supportive and positive-- she brought a good vibe to her race.  Thanks to Mark Long, whom I would readily hire as an ultracoach if I weren't too far away. Thanks to my wife (who took all of the above pictures also-- quite the photographer!) and my little man and my dog maya for showing up and cheering me every loop, and for not laughing at me, no matter how much snot or pizza or confusion or hate was on my face. And thanks to the higher power that put me in a body that can accomplish such a thing, without chemicals and madness, and who lets me discover the joy in running this great golden earth.

Weymouth Woods 100k Trail Race, a preface and an aesthetic arguement.


Zeno's paradox, zendo of sand and long-leaf pine, the final passages of a blog.

I've been immersed in a strange, echo-layered existence of deja vu for a few weeks now. Nostalgia and reflective pause filter my thoughts sepia, washy technicolor. . . life like a rediscovered, bentcorner photograph, a bending into the past, a begging for a younger time.  its the paradigm of winter, really; distorted & false. sentiment and grovel.  a coffee-stained life, overexposed, overanalyzed.. . . like an artist working an image. . . . memory peels back the layered grounds, grinds down pigments, distorts contours, extracts an essence and makes prominent certain details. In spaces where a face once smiled towards a bird feeder, or a black bike leaned on a boat, there is only a textured-vinyl background yellowing. A skew of the facts. Exhaustion.  Anyway.

Running through the woods of cabarrus county, chasing the tiny sounds of snakes and birds, following the anemic splashes of five-mile creek. . . a filthy creek, but it meekly trickled, sulfuric and beer-canned, unabated. filthy was just the way the creek was, neither good nor bad to a child's understanding.  Water.  A place to play. We would swim there on occasion, a small fish or black snake swimming by. Bamboo thickets. Red clay. Roots like mad hands reaching out of the steep river banks. The long shadows swallowing the thick leaves that never seemed to decay. sweet oak scent. The cracking and shuffling of my steps.
It is probably in those woods that my love of running began. I spent hours in those woods as a young boy.  Solitude and exploration, the prominent traits of a runner or an artist, are embedded here.  From my love of being in the woods came a love of hikes, then the freedom to run down a mountain, an intoxicating thing, a self-reliant act, a collaboration of earth and body. My love for running down a mountain remains, but with age, you also learn to run up the mountain, to savor the work. To build on the work.

Fast forward to the years beyond cobblestoned cannon village, the smokey seats of gem theater, smells of axle grease/ sweat at earl's tire, shotguns trained on dove in rural concord fields, the wild splash of catfish at paul's lake, the doppler roll of summer halfpipes, virginia amtrack stations and the phillips & the hirshhorn, prague and west berlin, stravinsky and picasso, hemingway and modigliani, coltrane & mingus, a midnight collapse in a greensboro club, lost paintings, college flunk outs, strippers in atlanta with an armful of ecstacy, deaths and births, mushrooms of florida, loves and loss, farming tomatoes in the mountains, strolling galleries in asheville, ER and ache, the stomachknots of hate during intervals of detox, various other failures, various other happenings. . . the tragic magic of existence. Insomniac eyes that bled and craved; eyes turned inward, anger turned inwards. Life turned inward. Eyes riddled with fear, anxiety, panic, lost breath, the vicious collapse of reason. Paint, a whole love, a Love Intact, a boy that once gave freely, that feared little, that laughed heartily, that embraced. a boy like any boy:  nothing special but the fact of his existence, which is an absolute diamond-marvel.
 
But here approaches a culmination of work and love and life with a trail race of 100km, a horrorshow of struggle and a series of miracles equivalent to anyone else's life.  ultimately, the 100k is the thrust of my belief, it is a duchampian happening, a kinetic installation, a self-portrait.  an alchemy and a restoration.

I fully intend on finishing, I would like to make between ten and eleven hours, and I would like to continue running after a few days of rest. my mind reels the distance into a zeno paradox, and if I can stay in the act of the stride, the mile-to-mile part of it, the loop-to-loop, if i can sustain a belief in the mental/spiritual journey behind the musclework (which is only the vehicle, like linseed oil or a train or an instrument), and remain in the act of enduring, then I will finish a 100 km trail race.

in conclusion, to run is a very natural thing.  to paint is to compose, to embellish, to dramatize.  art is a sociological-psychological thing. myth exists in these two acts, but at very different levels of the work.  to engage in the more primal act is more certain an honest labor. and running is primal, innate, instinctual, a gut-level burn.  running is a communion of body and ground, of mind and legs, of distance and silence. painting is a soloist act, a zarathustrian trapezist. art is a propaganda (especially in a contemporary art market) while running is a meditation.
for now, i prefer running, though i still enjoy the oiley dry drag of a charcoal vine as it bites black into a thin layer of zinc-white gesso. meanwhile, wherever the burn goes. . . to weymouth.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012, weymouth woods 100k, the aleph.

i.  a series of loops, like a 100k.  

The body, the mind, the soul, the collective operates in cycles, layers of cycles, cycles of cycles. . . a World of habit and rhythm. And, most days, I mosh into that patterned existence with a heave/ho and a belief that my labor matters. a faith preserves & propagates further effort.  a momentum drives the body forward. Be it stillness or movement, the body internalizes habit, learns and adapts, becomes its routine.  thus, the running shoes, a notebook, a dose of music, a few starchy strides down a trail before the loosening.
sometimes, the collapse. The sag, the lag, the lull.  and for now, i feel tired.  enter the taper period of the weymouth woods 100k.  extra sugar in my coffee, a gravity on my bones, a brood.
i operate best by instinct and momentum.  i train (run, paint, write) to build a collaboration of instinct and momentum, and by repetition i sharpen my instinct and strengthen my base.  i progress towards an efficient exertion (whether in paint or language or trail). the body is a momentum, subject to itself, a god-form, a sovereign diety. when the run feels natural, when a mark falls easily, a zen inkbrush moment, when effort is impulse and reward, then you have the core of the work down.  then, you have the alignment. its an aleph of existence when a body cuts through the woods in its own strength, a communion between a runner and the earth, a primitive dance, the pursuit of a new language, a mark. 
To be present in the body's habits, to move as life moves, elusive and calligraphic, and to be engaged- even in routine- is the trick. 2011 was a fine year, thus 2012 begins with the same ideas: to get up, check my head, kick some miles, slow the angst, boil out some pigments and language and nurture the belief that the acts of life, as a continuum, as a narrative, will one day prove to be a coherent form. Otherwise, the vacuum of an existential conundrum: nothing but vast, void inquiry. pernod and cigarette whisps across sartre's nauseau.  i need action:  distillation of act, a distillation by Act.
it is really only when i succumb to easy running, complacency, the Glaze, that i bust my ass on a trail.  if i am tired, but conscious, i slow down to allow for sluggish footwork.  but if i am mindlessly milling, eventually, the ground will steal a kiss.  this has happened several times in the previous month to teach me valuable presence of mind.  it normally follows the thought, "i am running well today."  concentrate on the trail and the body will follow; concentrate on the body and you lose the meaning.   

Kicking. A word of several meanings (maybe) but I can really only focus on two. Kicking in street terms is derived from the involuntary flinches of the legs that comes from a narcotic withdrawal. The leg muscles cramp and ache severely, causing a kicking reflex. The stomach muscles and the heart muscles also constrict and spasm- all the muscles of the body revolt, a horror-bask. the gruel.
the other use of the word is running. Running is a cleansing act. A meditation in movement, a transcendental thrust, time that forces the mind into a nexus of awareness and response, faith and function. Running forces the coordination of mind and body, a belief in their collective aptitude.
running a trail is an act of self-confidence and faith and fitness, all conspiring through a funnel of physicality. 

much libido in the early miles-- craving followed by satiation-- there was massive drive and the knowledge of body, exploratory burn, the capture of touch, layers of mouth and breath, fever, primal moutheyes, hunter ears, heat of pulse, gravity, a soul cascades through a body, an eternal hush, the final limp comfort.
there was a newness of flesh and a celebration thereof. 
in truth, sexiness falls from later miles.  peels back like chafe.  libido devours its own suffering minutea and digests it towards a solitary echo, a vague thought.   the sex longs but there is no more body.
it is a common theme.

ii.

To completely reinvent myself.. . . the refashioning might include a buell motorcycle, a glock sidearm, and a wolf named wittgenstein. maybe an obsession with old coins and the alamo. i would register my own constellations.  i would consider the weight of a pillow, how it affects a dream.  i would grow a rat tail.  i would not bother running trails in sub-30 degree weather. i would find the absurdity in running 100k on a trail sufficient to avoid such an endeavor. i would meanwhile cruise on my steel horse and laugh into the wind and chase bears with wittgenstein, referring to the capture and wrestle as a tautological process.

But as it stands, ten days out from my longest race ever, the weymouth woods 100k trail run confronts a dull, tired, flat-minded runner that has little concept of the new year beyond that trail race. the miles have collected like cataracts across my eyes.

iii.  the present.
training eases into a taper. a full taper is not my body's deal: lethargia stones me if i completely stop running. so the runs shorten, slow a bit, switch to nontechnical surfaces, a way to push blood around the legs, keep the momentum of movement in the muscle.  pedaling the surly through a january afternoon becomes a primary exercise, a pleasurable break.
meanwhile, the mind accelerates into doubt, arrogance.  but little more preparation can be accomplished.  it is meat and bone and the results of the conditioning. taper is an easy time and a hard time.

What the body has on race day is the question, the big culmination. marley, wyclef, culture, kronos, dead kennedys, rage, schubert, bach, goat rodeo. nutrition is settled to include gels, fruit, electrolyte beverages, pb&j, protein bars, trail mix. Coffee. things are in place.  i have envisioned later miles, new world miles, and tried to adjust my head for them.  i have a spotlight and a pair of tights.
i have considered tom simpson. 
For now, I am tired and watching kyote play with trains and flash cards.  its 10 in the morning.  the cycle must be free to move, must be free to layer and build and burn.  the act must remain pure, must have weight, ground & gravity, like a painted figure, like a late beethoven fugue, like a passion. there will be myth and collapse and renaissance. a self-devouring.  for me, weymouth is more than a physical run, its a mental/spiritual process.